The two main things I’ve learned from my Ashtanga practice

At least, as of today. Because these lessons seem to love to leapfrog each other, so one is suddenly the top, another falls down three or four places.

How to be calm in a trying moment

The lucky thing about being stiff is that almost every pose offers you a quick opportunity to get into a trying, uncomfortable position. Two days ago, this happened with Pada Hastasana. You know, that pose you probably haven’t given much thought to in, oh, years. I managed to get fairly deep down and into the pose, padas mostly on top of my hastas, and it was unpleasant. And my breathing went right to quick and shallow before I could wrangle it, slow it down, stretch it out and stay there, semi-calm for all five long, slow, controlled (or controlled-ish) breaths.

That’s the lesson on the mat. But if that lesson doesn’t operate anywhere else, what’s the point?

A few weeks back, I got to enjoy an uncomfortable conversation at work that, I realized after, should have had me much more nervous, sweaty, discombobulated. But it didn’t. I’d remained remarkably placid throughout. It wasn’t anywhere as gripping as that Pada Hastasana was.

Yes, you might call that a quieted mind, but that’s giving me too much credit.

Patience and perseverance

I think I’ve learned this elsewhere, too, but right now I’m of the opinion that it’s sticking best through the ongoing Ashtanga practice. Others, lots of them, have longer-lived practices than I, but I’m plugging along still after six or seven years, and it isn’t as though I’ve blown through First, Second and Third Series. (See above.) And it isn’t by force of the will of a teacher every day or a shared shala space. (There’s definitely lots much different when you’re practicing all alone, and at home.) I’m not expecting breakthroughs or big rewards that come nicely packaged with bells, whistles, balloons and candy. I think I’m hoping for stability, which when everything else might be regressing (hi! aging process), is its own from of progress. I’ll take going from a stiff 40-something to a nimble and healthy 80-something.

I may in some ways be too patient, in fact. But that’s a part of the balance (ahem, the yoga) I’m seeking.

And if I can persevere and be patient, I might find it. And then I’ll be super calm.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “The two main things I’ve learned from my Ashtanga practice”

  1. It’s so nice to read this, I have also recently (two years ago) started the ashtanga practice but have to admit that only after a year of pushing through I understood the value and meaning of patience and letting go of expectations in the practice. Ashtanga has taught me that everything is coming in it’s own time and it feels good to enjoy the journey, that’s the power of the regular practice 🙂

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